Nick Harvey always wears shooting glasses in the hunting field and on the range, as well as for shotgunning.

Shooting glasses protect eyes

EVERYONE SHOULD wear glasses when shooting. Everyone who wants to fully protect their eyes and at the same time enjoy the best vision under all shooting conditions should definitely wear impact resistant shooting glasses.

Hunters and target shooters may well have perfect 20/20 vision, but there are several good reasons why they should all wear eye protection, other than correcting faulty vision. This is particularly important for those who handload their own ammunition; because cases that have been reloaded a number of times, or been loaded too hot can suffer head separations and allow hot gases and tiny pieces of brass and steel to flow back through the action and strike the shooters eyes.

The risk of permanent damage to the sight is real, a tiny piece of metal embedded in the cornea can result in a brief stay in hospital, and a possible inhibition of vision or possibly even blindness. This kind of incident is not uncommon and ordinary spectacles pose an additional threat. Shattered glass driven into the eyeball can do a helluva lot of damage in itself.

Proper shooting glasses feature safety lenses which are impact resistant being made either from a special tough plastic or glass at least 3mm thick and heat-treated so that it will withstand the impact of a 22.23mm steel ball dropped from 125cm. Today, the pendulum has swung in favour of plastic safety lenses, since thick glass is much heavier and bulkier. Plastic lenses are much lighter than glass and more comfortable to wear.

The line of sight passes through the upper part of the lenses when target shooting. These plastic glasses have properly large lenses.

How safe are they? Even the best optical plastic is prone to get scratched, and must be handled rather carefully. However, plastic has good safety qualities, and can even be made into prescription lenses, including bifocals.

How can you tell if a lens is safe? Shooting lenses are not always made impact-resistant. Seek professional advice when selecting shooting glasses. If you order prescription shooting lenses, you can be sure the heat treating was properly done and checked before you took delivery of them. I’ve set good quality plastic shooting glasses up at 25 metres and shot at them with a 12 gauge shotgun. They dented but didn’t shatter which means that powder gases and splinters of brass or steel won’t penetrate them either.

Hunting poses added threats to eyesight. Branches and leaves can can strike you in the eye when pushing through brush. Wind can blow abrasive dust in your face when least expected. If you wear them all the time, shooting glasses can provide a very effective protective shield.

Glare reduction is another reason why you should wear shooting glasses. Most hunters, including me, use yellow (some call ’em amber) lenses. Although they are not designed to cut outdoor brightness, they do lower the intensity of incident light somewhat although it’s not
apparent when looking through them. Yellow creates the effect of making objects appear sharper and brighter, and improves contrast, but no lens can ‘gather light’ and increase the amount entering the eye.

These moderately priced plastic shooting glasses are affordable, sit high on the face and wrap around the sides. They are impact resistant.

Scientifically compounded yellow lenses tend to reduce the veiling effect of ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. They absorb the blue and reduce the scatter light of fog and haze. That’s why the best fog lights are yellow because they do apparently increase object visibility and allow drivers to see farther through mist and haze.

Yellow is an advantage for range shooting when the atmosphere is grey and hazy, but some advise they should not be used in the field on bright, clear days. Under very bright conditions, I’ve found neutral greys and yellowish greens do not upset the normal colour balance of the visual environment and are easier on the eyes. Blue, bright green, red, orange, yellow and other highly selective colours, make objects take on the colour of the lens itself.

How dark should shooting glasses be? The reality is that no one tint or density will handle all the various conditions a shooter may encounter. The commonly used grades of sunlenses absorb from 70 to 90 percent of light. On bright days a darker lens is required, while on dull days, it cuts down the light too much. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to own half a dozen different pairs of shooting glasses. Most shooting glasses come in a pack which contains the frame and four or five different coloured sets of interchangeable lenses.
This allows the shooter to select the best colour and density that suits a prevailing condition. Each lens is designed to meet certain light conditions.

The shooter’s problem in getting proper glasses is greatly simplified if he follows one rule: always get lenses that are heattreated for safety or high quality plastic. This eliminates cheap and inferior (unsafe) sunglasses since only high-quality makes are ready-made with safety lenses.

When choosing shooting glasses there are two things to look for: they must be positioned properly in front of your eye, and be large enough to give maximum protection. This means the frame must fit your facial features just right and feel comfortable so that you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing them.

Size is critical. Don’t get glasses that are too small. Light coming in around the lens edge sets up a high contrast area in the visual field which can be worse than no lens at all. Good shooting glasses should sit high on your face so that when you lower your head to shoot at the range, you aim through the upper portion of the lens, and your eyes are shielded. For hunting curved sidelenses that attach to the outer edges of the frame offer extra protection and block any light from coming in the side. Any shooting glasses should be, therefore, larger than average.

While all of the variables of lens, bridge and temple size may be correct for you, some bending and adjusting is nearly always necessary to obtain a proper fit. Don’t buy a pair that doesn’t fit. Standard shooting glasses come in several sizes of bridge widths, for small and large noses. Of course, prescription glasses come in as many as five different widths and will have frames chosen to fit. Bridges with adjustable metal pads offer more flexibility in adjusting lens height.

Selection of the proper type and length of earpiece is important too. Good quality glasses offer a selection of different styles and lengths. Earpieces on shooting glasses should fit tight to the head, and angle right around behind the ear to prevent them falling off when you bend down. There is a large variety of frame and lens shapes that are designed for shooting. You can get any lens tint in any kind of frame and lens shape you want ñ all to suit your individual needs.

Some frames are specially shaped, designed so they will not get in the way when cheeking the gunstock. It is flat at the bottom so it doesn’t hit a tightly cheeked stock. This frame is necessary for bench and target shooting off a rest, but offers no real advantage for hunting.

Shooting glasses deserve your closest attention. You only get one set of eyes in your lifetime, so make sure you get the finest glasses you can to protect your most precious asset.

Excellent size and shape for field use. This package includes four different tints of lenses and a pair of curved side lenses.

This article was first published in Sporting Shooter, March 2009.




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